tv Newsmakers CSPAN July 28, 2013 6:00pm-6:31pm EDT
>> our guest on "newsmakers" is senator ron wyden. he is a member of the house intelligence committee. he has been a critic of the national security agency and its scope of data gathering. we invited him because there has been so much going on including a close house vote that aimed to somewhat curtailed the nsa and its data gathering methods. ed o'keefe is a congressional reporter for "the washington post." >> you are one of the most vocal opponents. in march you raise the red flag for many of us when you wrote a letter with senator udall. americans would be stunned to know the extent of summit this government ease dropping. this is before edward snowden came out and revealed many of the details of the telephone and internet surveillance programs.
were these two programs the extent of what you and senator udall were talking about or have they not yet been disclosed but you think americans would be stunned to learn about? >> you are not allowed to tap the truth out in morse code for these rules. i do have to stick to what senator udall and i have stated on the public record. when i did indicate that i thought the public would be stunned and angry when they learned how the patriot act was being interpreted, i was talking about the bulk collection of the phone records of millions and millions of law-abiding
americans. with respect to other approaches, what i can say is under the patriot act the government's authority to collect is limitless. >> based on that, in what other areas do you think americans should be most worried when it comes to surveillance and collection? >> i am concerned about the fact that the government will not state really what the rules are with respect to tracking americans
on their cell phones. i have asked this repeatedly at public hearings and the intelligence committee. the government official position is first they have the authority to do it. they said they are not doing it now but they will not spell out the rules today with respect to
the rights of americans with respect to cell phone tracking. >> let me
ask you about some of the authorities. this week the house defeated a proposal that would have banned the telephone collection under the nsa program. where do you see this debate going from here? do you expect it to continue considering the congressional leaders support these programs and polls show that americans are very deeply divided on whether or not they should give up some of their security protections? >> the polls have done an about- face in a matter of weeks. we always joke you only go a long with this but they are moving your way. there has been a genetic shifts of the country seal and that it is a violation of their liberty. i think that is what you saw on the floor of the house of representatives. i think it is especially important to note there would not even have been a big debate on the floor eight weeks ago.
you would not have had 200 votes for fundamental changes. this debate is definitely going to continue. the bipartisan approach that i and senator udall have been part of when the democrats and
republicans trying to revise section 215 to ensure that when you try to spy on a person you have got to have some avid and that they are suspected of terrorism. that is the bottom line. to do otherwise, to have a dragnet surveillance where you vacuum up everyone of the phone records, who people call, when they called, where they called from, it will become increasingly unpopular.
proposal with democrats and republicans? >> i am definitely working with democrats and republicans to overhaul this program to magically. there have been a number of discussions already. senators on both sides of the aisle. the discussions have accelerated sent that extraordinary house vote. we also have a quarter of the united states senate on record saying they are very interested in pursuing certainly the issues that are central to this debate. that is the reason we insisted on finally getting the answers. you are going to see a very strong and bipartisan effort in the senate to pick up on the work of the house and to fix a problem that i think i will. it intrudes on the privacy and
liberties and millions of law- abiding americans. >> under what way would you do that? i know dianne feinstein said they are working on. i will not rule out any possibilities. depending on how the leadership might want to construct it, it is possible they would like to have a discussion of some of the other issues and reserve and opportunity for us to raise our concerns about the bulk collection programs. there are a variety of ways we will pursue it. we want viewers to understand this until it is fixed. >> you mentioned one thing earlier. it was about cell phones. you were concerned about how the government is collect information. most people are carrying a telephone device that can make calls, send text, and surf the internet. it should americans be concerned that all three are being tracked or just the calls? >> i cannot get into the details of any specific operation or whether it is being did. i will -- conducted. i will indicate that having that computer in your pocket
increases the potential that certainly people could be tracked 24/7. when
the fbi director says in public forums when we have asked and asked repeatedly what are the right of law-abiding americans with respect to cell phone tracking, you cannot get an answer. there is reason to be concerned. >> i would like you to respond to a series of quotes from chris christie talking about the nsa debate. he calls these esoteric debate about privacy. i want them to come to new jersey and sit across from the widows and orphans and have that conversation and they will not. it is a tougher conversation to have. stressing this may not seem so principled after the next attack that comes killed thousands of americans as a result. >> i think the idea that security and liberty are mutually exclusive is just wrong.
i think it is possible with sensible public policy to have both. that would be the first kind of message that i would convey. in a number of these areas, we want to make sure that when it relates to national security and that means keeping intelligence operations secret, we're going to do that every step of the way. that is different than keeping the law secret. there is a difference between secret operations which have to be protected to adjust those issues that governor chris christie was talking about and secret law. that is not what our system of government is all about. that is why we saw this in the how to. millions and millions of law- abiding americans are saying the idea of vacuuming up these phone records, who recalls, where we
called from, laying bare our personal lives to the scrutiny of government bureaucrats and contractors, is not with the country is about. what we want them focused as people who are suspected of terrorism. >> picking up on the governor's point, let's say the tracking program is abandoned and then there is some kind of high terrorist attack. you know that several are going to say that because you abandoned this that is what made us more vulnerable. scaling this back, how can you assure americans that they can still be protected if it did not exist?
quite what we have done, and we have been very specific is that we would like the government to describe what is the unique value of the collection of all of these law-abiding americans that you can not get with the quite sweeping emergency quarantines and court warrant processes? it can be so intrusive to the private lives of americans. he what to say here is why you need it because it provides this particular value. the government has not done that. >> i am wondering your understanding of whether the phone companies who have been told the fisa court to hand over these records have challenged some of these to hand them over. >> there are classified aspects of that. a number have indicated publicly that they are uncomfortable with the role in all of this.
>> edward snowden, is he a hero or a villain? >> i feel quite strongly about this. this debate is one that should have been started long ago by elected officials and not by a government contractor. when there is an individual who has been charged criminally, i do not get into commenting beyond that. >> the government has said if he wants to claim whistleblower status he should have gone to some of the legal procedures to do that before he released some of these documents. whistleblowers must first go through congress. you have been unable to talk about some of these details because they are classified. how can someone like edward snowden legally go through the proper steps to become a whistleblower if members of congress cannot do that themselves? >> it is not my business to
legally advise someone other than my position is to always tell people to comply with the law. i do think that what we have seen, and senator udall and i have gone to great lengths to comply with the rule, indicates that you can make a difference. last year we got declassified within the fourth amendment have been violated. there's no question that it is a challenge. we did the flasher when we were able to strike it when we were able to strike the so-called penalty.
we are able to stand up for the rights in line with a very challenging set of classifications. >> one very fast follow-up on something you had said earlier about the danger or awareness that americans could be tracked by the government by having a mobile phone in the pocket. are these granted by the pfizer court as well?
>> i cannot get into anything with respect to pfizer decisions. one of the reasons that they want to declassify the legal analyses between these decisions it would shed some light on these questions. i cannot publicly discuss the decision with respect to cell phones. >> did you see the report friday analyzing the decisions made by these judges and where these guys that served on the court were originally? what did you make of it? they have been officials. more often than not they are siding with requests that are made with them. >> i want viewers to know that i think in many particulars this is anachronistic. they are using processes that simply do not fit the time. when the fisa court passed in the 70s and no one envisioned some of astounding region that the courts have gone to with respect to the patriot act and its definition of relevance.
nowhere does this suggest that nowhere does this suggest that you could collect the phone records of millions and millions of law-abiding americans. i think there are a couple of keys to reforming the fisa act. that is to change the fact it is the most one-sided legal process in the united states. i do not know if any other legal system that does not highlight anything except one point of view. they make the point that when the executive point of view is dominated by the thinking of a new judge, you have a pretty combustible mix. >> they said the appointments are the purview of the chief justice. would you change that system? >> there are a number of approaches that ought to be nowhere does this suggest that you could collect the phone records of millions and millions of law-abiding americans. i think there are a couple of keys to reforming the fisa act. that is to change the fact it is the most one-sided legal process in the united states. i do not know if any other legal system that does not highlight anything except one point of view. they make the point that when the executive point of view is dominated by the thinking of a new judge, you have a pretty combustible mix. >> they said the appointments are the purview of the chief justice. would you change that system? >> there are a number of approaches that ought to be looked at. there are shifts talking about making this from senator approval. senator blumenthal has some interesting new ideas that i
think could diversify some of the thinking on the court. i am interesting in following up with both of them. >> i wanted to ask you about the confirmation process. in recent days the senate has finally confirmed if you president obama's cabinet picks. he is likely to confirm three new members. now that the senate has locked itself to the edge of the cliff and did not change the rules on how to confirm nominees, do you still want to see a change in the rules or do you believe things are fine? >> there has been a lot of progress in the senate. i am hoping to continue our track records. we are trying to bring in efficiency bill to the floor of the senate. we are able to recognize that this is not the end of the debate. i do feel my colleagues with respect to a requirement that you should stand up and deliver your filibuster and person there should be a requirement that there should be a filibuster utilize that rule. >> part of the reason there is so much acrimony is there aren't necessarily those dealers that have been there before that dominated the chamber. who would you point to as one of the most influential senators that are able to do that?
>> there are a lot of champions of bipartisanship in the united states congress. what the real challenges today and why it is so good to be on a show like this is you do have almost ideological television which certainly drives much of the thinking in this country. it was picks up by the special interest groups and dry some of the financial support. i think what a lot of us are trying to do, and you will see it this week, we have not had an energy bill on the floor since 2006.
that was before we made tremendous progress in solar. i think you will see a lot of centers pick up on the need to beat bipartisan. we are looking at some major ways to strengthen the program, hold down costs by focusing on chronic care. i think you'll see a number of programs that focus on what the country really wants, which is problem solving. you have to be bipartisan. >> on the other side of the world, recently they approved a package to the rebellion in syria that is said to include weapons. i am wondering if you support that measure in the committee and whether you think it will do enough to really make any kind of battlefield shifts on the ground? >> i'm getting repetitive.
we are not allowed to talk about what is going on. there are a number of key components with respect to what is going on in syria. everyone is troubled by the comments. i think what united states senators want to know is what is the endgame here? he is highlighting the finding that the government believes he is more resilient than he
originally thought. there are components of the policy in syria that i supports, particularly this. you are going to see this in light of the quite sobering statement made last week on the resiliency of mr. assad that it will factor in prominently. >> as you know, the dempsey letter did not bring up the option of aiding the syrian rebels with arms. do you support giving arms to the rebellion? >> i could see a role for assistance to the rebels.
there are a host of questions. who exactly are they? how does it fit into a plan? when you do that, the logical next question is what will be the future step? i put this in the context of those kinds of consideration. >> i guess this prompted some tough decisions. the senate finance committee told them if they had ideas on reform they could submit them in the ideas would be locked away until 2064. did you submit any? what do you make of this idea of keeping them secret?
>> first of all, no one will be much surprise by my submissions with respect to tax reform. for well over five years i have been involved in bipartisan approaches for this. it really goes back to the date when rahm emanuel was still in the house and we could not even find a republican sponsored. i have consistently said the basic proposition from 1986 we clean up these tax rates and use the money to hold down rate but keep productivity and help the middle class. the consumer drive 70% of the economy. we have a paid for tax cuts. it is very much in line with the economic thinking that was part of his speeches. >> were there many that wanted their proposals to be kept secret for that long? >> i think what we want to do is find a way to encourage deliberations. there are lots of new senators who joined this. it is quite clear that in the senate they want to make sure that everyone of the hundred senators has a chance to be heard. you joked about some of the
intelligence style shrouding of this whole debate. no one is going to be very surprised by what i said because it tracked the bipartisan proposals. >> we are here. any sense from the white house about when a consensus is coming? >> i have been talking to senators about that. i have had reservations about the concept. i think the evidence is that the energy is going to head to the old coast and then it will be exported to asia.
you have particularly a number of refineries. they are foreign controlled. we are waiting for the decision. i hope particularly this upcoming week you asked about bipartisanship. i think it makes a lot of sense. every senator is supposed to say it ought to start with energy efficiency. we will have a chance to do that. >> thank you so much for being with us. >> thank you. >> met me ask you whether he is right in reading the tea leaves. has the sense of congress shifted on this debate? is this an indicator that things are changing? >> he is right. when some of these first came out people were very quick to jump behind the leadership and say we put these in place to protect the american people will. the sideshow shifted to edward snowden in terms of whether or not he was qualified to do all
of these things. the justice department broke the law. the fact that the house had this debate last week and it was so divided, i think there were only seven votes. >> it was about 12 that separated the yes from the no. >> it was an incredible coalition. it was the most conservative and most liberal members of the house that will come together.
>> governor christie was critical of the libertarians but this is a place where they actually meet. >> absolutely. you have a 33-year-old michigan libertarian joining up with the 84-year-old john conyers, a liberal scholar, and they were able to bring together 200 members of the house. 12 did not vote. that could have brought it closer. i think senator wyden is onto something.
>> part of the reason this is going on is because democrats and republicans are being approached by democrats and republicans back home who are upset and concerned about what is being done. >> one of the things to keep in mind is that this is a very emotional debate. that means they can swing back and forth pretty quickly and easily. we do not know what the outcry would be if the united states is hit with another terror attack. nothing to indicate right now that something is relating. should something happen there would inevitably be some sort of outcry of why can?t the
government keep us safe? we had all of these in place. we had all of these reforms supposed to keep us safe after september 11 and they did not. i think there's is probably reigned for how to find that mushy middle between what the executive branch has an terms of protection in what people who are justifiably concerned about privacy rights are calling for. we have not seen an answer to that. >> some people are harking back to 75. watch the pendulum has swung. we may be at a point now where there is a little correcting after 9/11. going into election year, what are the politics? >> this was a real demonstration. you had house republican and democratic leadership on the same side of the issue with the white house. then you had so many members voting to restrict this program. i think the fact that you solve the head of the house and senate intelligence committee consent publicly to examining how to possibly bring this and are put in more privacy protections as an example of what they are willing to do as a first step and if they can do that that they can get agreement on it and put that in place and maybe that will be enough to hold it off. it depends on what transpires and whether it continues to down political discourse. a lot depends on how quickly edward snowden situation where there in russia or back in the united states is settled. >> thank you for your questions. we appreciate it.